A rewarding stint volunteering for reporter
Timaru’s Riding for the Disabled runs lessons three days a week and relies on more than 50 volunteers, reporter had the privilege of working alongside some for the second instalment in our series on volunteer groups.
Having very limited experience with horses, I felt a bit nervous when I arrived to spend a morning volunteering at Timaru’s Riding for the Disabled.
However, by the time I left I felt genuinely lucky to have witnessed the difference riding made to the children and young adults with disabilities - and found it eye-opening to gain some understanding of the difficulties they faced.
Thankfully I was not the only new volunteer, and I was soon reassured people from all walks of life helped out at RDA, not only ‘‘horsey’’ people.
About 30 people attend the Timaru group, with three riding days held every week. The group is one of 55 in the country, and relies on volunteers and qualified riding coaches.
About 52 volunteers help the organisation - many of them help with the horses, but others assist in other ways, for instance fundraising in the community.
Coach Wendy Marr said people came to Riding for the Disabled for a variety of reasons - and while some of the people who attended were on the autism spectrum, others had different mental or physical disabilities.
Rather than getting involved in the lessons straight away, I went to help prepare the horse’s feed with co-ordinator Gill Collins, who told me a bit about the horses which were carefully chosen for their suitability.
The horses had only recently returned to Riding for the Dis- abled, after they were cut off for two weeks due to heavy flooding in the district. They were stranded on a paddock belonging to Timaru Boys’ High School, and the children were happy to have them back.
Gill said among the nine horses was ‘ Fraggle’, an older horse with a very easygoing personality, Fraggle had been retired four times, but kept being brought back.
During a lesson, the horses would be led around a paddock on horseback before going into a pen where people could do different activities while still sitting on the horse.
Early in the morning, I helped a young boy named Logan with an activity designed to help with his co-ordination and movement, this involved throwing him a ball which he then put through a hoop.
Although he had not spoken while he was being led around, he began to talk and react when the ball went through, asking for the hoop to be moved.
It was amazing seeing the difference in another man who did not seem very aware of the world around him at the start of the lesson.
As he completed the exercises successfully, he took his cue from the people around him and began to laugh, clap and smile.
I went away thinking it must be a rewarding organisation to be involved in, and feeling a sense of appreciation of the volunteers who make it happen.
Horses were led into a pen which was set up with cones and stations where the children could do different activities while still sitting on the horse. Pictured is Logan ScottWalton.